WASHINGTON - Call it the un-impeachment hearing.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing yesterday that it insisted was not about removing President Bush from office. But critics of Bush's policies couldn't pass up the chance to charge the president with a long list of impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors."
Leading the way was Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, the former Democratic presidential candidate who has brought repeated impeachment resolutions on the House floor against Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Kucinich got a rock star welcome of whistles, hoots, and clapping as he walked into the hearing room, holding hands with his wife, from hundreds of anti-war, anti-Bush people crammed into the room and lining the hallways outside. T-shirts reading "Arrest Bush" and "Veterans for Impeachment" illustrated the sentiments of many.
"The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable," Kucinich testified, avoiding use of the "I" word.
The House Democratic leadership, not interested in a bloody impeachment battle in the last year of Bush's presidency, steered Kucinich's resolutions to the Judiciary Committee where they could quietly fade away, but yesterday's hearing gave Kucinich and his allies an opportunity to air their views.
"To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing," said committee chairman Representative John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, pointing out the less incendiary title of the event, "executive power and its constitutional limitations."
Republicans, who were clearly in the minority at the hearing, expressed suspicion at Democratic motives. Representative Dan Lungren, Republican of California, called it "impeachment lite," where people were given free rein to impugn Bush, but not to impeach him.
"It seems that we are hosting an anger management class," said Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's senior Republican. "This hearing will not cause us to impeach the president; it will only serve to impeach Congress's credibility."